Clever ways to love life without breaking the bank
Money is tight, and that means what we should all be doing is saving the pennies and looking to make out lives a bit more secure.
But a life lived without joy, never going out or seeing your friends, is not just miserable – it can be self defeating.
It not only increases the chances we’ll splurge cash later on, it also distances us from the point living in the first place.
So, to allow you to keep having fun, while minimising the damage to the bank balance, we have hunted down some great deals – letting you save cash and life your best life for free .
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1. Use cash instead of cards
It is easy to lose track of your spending on a night out if you’re paying with plastic, especially if you’re tapping contactless cards.
Instead, set yourself a budget and take the cash with you. Just don’t be tempted to borrow from a friend when you reach your limit.
2. Be upfront with the bill
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If friends suggest going to a restaurant, explain in advance that you’re on a budget and want to pay for what you have rather than splitting the bill.
That way, you won’t sweat all night about the final total and you’ll avoid paying extra towards your friends’ expensive wine.
Most cinema chains offer cheap screenings at certain times of the week – check websites for deals.
And if you’re a regular moviegoer, then you can make big savings by taking out a monthly membership.
4. Look out for meal deals
If you want to eat out for less, there are always deals to be found, according to Sarah Lewis, restaurant marketing expert and founder of The Golden Chopstick Awards.
She said: “Sign up to newsletters from your favourite restaurants, as they often send offers and some give discount cards to regulars.”
Clare Francis, savings and investments director at Barclays, said: “Whenever you organise an outing with a group of friends or other families, do a kitty at the start, agree how much you want to spend and all put in the same. It’s a good way to set a budget for the day and you’re more likely to stick to it.”
6. Spend less at the bar
Don’t be seduced by expensive cocktails and opt for house wine and beer on tap instead. Never get roped into buying rounds if you’re on a budget (it rarely works out fairly).
Look for happy hours and eat before you go out so you’re not tempted to binge on pricey bar snacks or stop off for food on the way home.
Sarah said: “If you want to eat at a nice restaurant, book a table for lunch. Some really smart restaurants offer great value set-lunch menus. It’s the same delicious food you’ll have at dinner but more affordable.”
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Splashing out on full-price theatre tickets can blow your entertainment budget but theatre clubs can offer discounted tickets by operating a seat-filling service and matinees. You can also get access to first nights and previews.
Entertaining children doesn’t have to cost the earth. Clare said: “Young children are just as happy going on a muddy walk as they are visiting somewhere with an entry fee. But, if you’re heading to a theme park, booking in advance can mean cheaper deals than turning up on the day.”
11. Get the best deals on live events
Sign up to ticket sites for music, comedy and other live shows and you’ll be first to find out about pre-sale tickets and dates for general release.
Clare said: “Cut travel costs and make the most of your local area.
People often don’t think to check for events in their hometown but seek out the local area website to find free and low-cost events, from charity quiz nights to art shows and farmers’ markets.”
“If you go out regularly with the same friends, apps like Payfriendz are a good way to request or send money in real time so you don’t end up out of pocket,” added Clare.
Online voucher sites can cut the cost of everything from eating out and entertainment to fashion and beauty.
Clare said: “It’s good to set up a dedicated email address for offers so work and personal emails don’t get swamped. And get into the habit of scanning the emails to check offers.”
As long as you have good company, you don’t need to go to a posh bar to have fun. Host a cocktail night at home where everyone chooses a drink to make and brings the ingredients, so the cost is shared.
Does your decor need a revamp? Scout for second-hand pieces and upcycle them.
Vintage style expert Kate Beavis said: “You can have a lot of fun restoring, adapting and painting old furniture and there are plenty of tutorials online. You’ll end up with a one-off piece and you’ve also filled your time developing a new skill.”
Learn new recipes and kitchen skills using the food you have at home. Add ingredients you want to use from your fridge and cupboard and it’ll find matching recipes from popular cooking sites.
Children love doing this, it costs nothing and is a great activity for the summer holidays. Find a big box then let them decorate it. Include things such as birthday cards, special outfits, toys, photos, report cards and so on.
They can also make artwork to include such as handprints or footprints.
Buying through cashback sites rather than going direct to the retailer, can earn you hundreds of pounds a year if you use them correctly.
Clare added: “Also, check your current account as some – like Barclays’ Blue Reward – offer cashback when you shop with certain retailers.”
This doesn’t sound like fun but it could free up cash to spend on enjoying yourself. Clare said: “It’s the perfect time of year to switch energy providers and, if you haven’t done so in a couple of years, you can make massive savings.
Again, not much fun, but a couple of hours checking your finances can leave you better off, according to Clare.
She added: “You’d be amazed how many of us have direct debits for things we no longer use and subscriptions that renew automatically.
“Also, check insurance policies – you might find that you don’t need a standalone policy for devices, for example, if they are covered in your home insurance.”
Kate suggests switching up your look with second-hand accessories. She said: “You can pick up a quality vintage bangle or necklace for a third of the cost of going to a high-street store and it’ll be a unique piece.
Avoid the really pricey vintage boutiques and visit local charity shops and vintage fairs in town and village halls.”
Fitness apps that cost nothing have made it easier than ever to shape up on a budget. Download everything from yoga (try Daily Yoga) and HIIT training (check out Seconds Interval Timer) to ab-sculpting moves (try Daily Ab Workout).
Worried about the cost of a break? Cut out the accommodation price by swapping your house.
If you’re a good cook, artist or personal trainer, for example, swap a free lesson with a friend who can offer you something different. Clare said: “Swapping skills works well for entertaining kids, too. Teach your friend’s child how to bake cakes in return for learning some football skills. It makes for change and a fun time.”
Join a local Meetup group to find like-minded people and try your hand at something new for a small fee. There’s everything from cycling groups and five-a-side football to mums’ social groups, cultural trips, and arts and crafts.
This is a great way to meet new people, learn a skill or use existing ones and boost your feel-good factor by contributing something to your community.